Hey guys, Psychdota here. In this guide, I will explore what exactly is tilting and provide steps to control it. This isn’t meant to be an academic paper but I wanted to base it in science and provide you with every resource I searched for related to the subject since a lot of content related to dota is based on anecdotal evidence.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is tilt?
Why do we tilt or what causes tilt?
What can we do about tilt before the game starts?
What can we do about tilting in-game?
What is tilting?
The Poker study: The Science and Detection of Tilting defines tilting, “as losing control due to negative emotions, behaving erratically, and thereby suffering adverse consequences.” Tilting is a common occurrence. In a recent online study on poker players, within their last 6 months, 88% of players reported having tilted severely at least once, 43% more than five times, and 24% more than 10 times (Wei, Xingjie and Palomäki et. al., 2016).
Studies in psychology suggests that tilting is characterized by strong feelings of injustice. In other words, tilting seems to be a state of moral anger: losing due to bad luck is perceived as unfair**,** which motivates an aggressive retaliation strategy (in the name of justice), which in turn, ends in disappointment in self and rumination over lost resources (Wei, Xingjie and Palomäki et. al., 2016). Tilted players commonly adopt a suboptimal and overly aggressive playing style, whereby they almost always end up losing. Or they simply give up. Empirical sources show that tilting occurs in starcraft 2, tennis and golf and suggest that tilting might in fact be a universal human behavioural tendency (Palomäki, Laakasuo M, & Salmela, 2013).
Simply put, there are 2 components of tilting: emotional and behavioral.
The emotional reactions when tilting are mostly negative (emotions), strong feelings of injustice, and moral anger. These behavioral reactions when tilting are losing control, behaving erratically and overly aggressive, and to aggressively retaliate against others.
The significance of being able to break down tilt into pieces of emotion and behavior means it doesn’t always have to manifest. We can work on how we process our emotions to reduce tilting. We can also learn to be aware of when we are tilted and be able to pause and reflect on what you’re feeling and why.
What can we do about tilting before the game starts?
If you are thinking about anything else in your game you are distracted. Some fundamentals need to be taken care of before you can start to reduce tilting in your games and life. Everyone has bad habits. Addressing and changing them is a huge part of the solution to tilt less [PsychSensei, 2020].
So, what are these fundamentals?
Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep?
Are you showering? Brushing your teeth? Cleaning your clothes?
Are you eating healthy?
Are you staying hydrated?
Are you physically active?
Do you have emotional and financial security?
Do you have interpersonal relationships? Do you feel like you belong? This includes friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance. Mostly, receiving and giving affection and love. Being apart of a group (family, friends).
Do you have a healthy esteem for yourself? Do you believe you have value? Do you seek personal growth? Do you desire to become the best version of yourself?
Once you have gotten these basics down (or at least actively trying to work on them) we can work on our “mental state” or “mindfulness” – what I like to call tilt-control training. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present (Davis & Hayes, 2011). This mental state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.
Think of tilt-control as a muscle or an energy source. The more you train it the stronger it will become, however, if you use it a lot the source will deplete and need time to recover.
The best ways to do this is train tilt-control are:
Counseling – If you don’t have the resources for this or want someone you can connect with because we both play video games. I have been a mental health counselor for over 5 years. I am open to helping you for free. Reach out to me through my discord @ http://discord.org.il/DotaPsychWard
Breathing techniques – breathe in for four seconds, pause for 2 seconds, and breathe out for 4 seconds. Repeat this until you are grounded, meaning that you’re present in your body and connected with the earth. When you’re grounded, you allow yourself to feel centered and balanced no matter what’s going on around you. If you aren’t grounded, you’re like a leaf in the wind: very vulnerable and thrown off balance very quickly.
You can also practice meditation. Try meditating 3 minutes to start with (or longer if you can without having your mind wander). You can do this any time of the day. Don’t let your mind wander thoughts. Once you can do 10 minutes you can even build up to meditating for longer times.
Journaling or drawing every day (in the morning or at night) or after games. This will provide an increase in mood and be able to reflect and learn more about yourself (Drake & Winner, 2013).
Label your emotions when you are experiencing them and react differently. When u feel anger try saying how can I be kinder to myself. Research on compassion shows that it can decrease cortisol hormone (stress) and increase oxytocin (feel good hormone) (Drake & Winner, 2013).
Last but certainly not least, embody your behavior. Inquire about your anger. It has been trying to tell you something and it’s time to listen. What do I need to see right now that I haven’t been willing to see? What needs to be protected or supported? What action do I need to take right now? When we start to see anger as an ally and not a foe – we see this as a warning light – showing us that we are or others are trespassing. Or when boundaries are crossed. Anger heals trauma. Anger urges us to come out of denial and see clearly. Anger hangs around until we act. Anger inspires action. Having a healthy relationship with our anger is going to greatly reduce the amount of times you tilt (The Outcome, 2020).
What can we do about tilting in-game?
Most of the work on tilt-control is before the game even starts. However, remember the first step is to be aware that you are having an emotional response then you can learn to cope with the response. If you’re not self-aware it will be impossible to not suffer the full consequences of tilting.
Next time you feel angry, take a breath, pause and get to know why you are angry. Taking deep breaths engages the parasympathetic nervous system and sends signals to our body that soothe the threat response, putting us back into a relaxed state. Slow things down when they get tense (The Outcome, 2020).
When you tilt in a game do not play another game right after. Write, draw, reflect, meditate on what went wrong. When did you lose control? Why did you lose it? What could you have done differently? Were you fully present in the game? Were you thinking about something else? Go back to the previous section where I go over how you can train tilt-control. What can you learn from this experience?
Tilting is a phenomenon that occurs not only in Dota but in games and professions all across the world. Empirical evidence shows that there are ways to reduce tilting. The limitations of my research were that they mostly drew on data from poker, however, all of the strategies to go through your emotions are empirical therapeutic techniques. I would like to thank Khun for
asking for my input on tilting, as well as all the researchers and content creators that addressed tilting before me.
I believe there is much to learn in regards to tilt-control. Currently, the only machine that helps with tilt-control are watches that signal stock traders when their heart rate spikes, signalling that their trades may be based in emotion and not rational. One research article experimented with a webcam that tracks facial expressions and signals poker players when they could be experiencing tilt (Palomäki, 2013). I don’t believe we can use this in Dota and other Esports when during the course of the game emotions vary extremely and change too frequently to be effective.
I would love to see research on how much does technical skills influence victory compared to emotional and health-wellbeing? I believe training tilt-control is a vital part of being successful in Dota and other video games. I would love to see further research in how much tilt-control is impacting games. Practicing tilt-control will not only increase your performance in dota but improve your own self and relationships. I believe there is a lot more to discover in the phenomenon of tilting.
Thank you all for reading my guide on how to stop tilting. I hope you have learned something new or are motivated to start training tilt-control.
For more information on Psychology applied to video games (especially Dota), check out my youtube channel @ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl5a9TwYcSDWQuMAFIsFXGQ
Wei, Xingjie and Palomäki, Jussi and Yan, Jeff and Robinson, Peter (2016) The science and detection of tilting. In: ICMR ’16 Proceedings of the 2016 ACM on International Conference on Multimedia Retrieval. ACM, New York, pp. 79-86. ISBN 9781450343596
Palomäki J, Laakasuo M, Salmela M. “Don’t worry, it’s just poker!”–experience, self-rumination and self-reflection as determinants of decision-making in on-line poker. J Gambl Stud. 2013 Sep;29(3):491-505. doi: 10.1007/s10899-012-9311-3. PMID: 22581243.
Palomäki J, Laakasuo M, Salmela M. Losing more by losing it: poker experience, sensitivity to losses and tilting severity. J Gambl Stud. 2014 Mar;30(1):187-200. doi:
10.1007/s10899-012-9339-4. PMID: 23070722.
Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy, 48(2), 198–208.
Jennifer E. Drake & Ellen Winner (2013) How children use drawing to regulate their emotions, Cognition and Emotion, 27:3, 512-520, DOI: 10.1080/02699931.2012.720567
PsychSensei (2020, December 12). Esports and Cognitive Change? PsychSensei [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugb-mRd9JWc&t=4s
The Outcome (2020, October 21). How to control your emotions and use them to your advantage [Video]. Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aNsrtLYzvg